Photo via the beauty lookbook
THE PMS PROBLEM:
Preventing breakouts during PMS is kind of a lost cause. The older I get, the worse I feel about how I'll be able to handle menopause because PMS makes me look, feel, and act like a "less-evolved" version of myself. When I suffer from a breakout during this time, I have zero patience for it.
The fact is, there is no permanent cure for cystic hormonal acne other than Accutane. You can treat it with a hormone-altering medication like Spironolactone, you can manage it by getting in-office PDT treatments from a dermatologist, and you can receive an injection into the cyst from a dermatologist; but nothing will rid you of hormonal acne for good.
The only thing you can do is learn to work with them. A rep from a mommy-safe, plant-based, clean beauty brand called Amareta shared information with me on how to do just that with my hormones. The research shows that if you sync your skincare to your hormonal cycle (and yes, that is possible), you can preemptively treat symptoms that show on your skin during each phase.
We're able to remember that our periods occur on a 4-week cycle. Now, it's time to remember that our skin is on the same one. Weeks 1 + 2 — on your period and one week after — your skin is in the Follicular Phase. For our skin, this means that dryness and dullness abound. Weeks 3 + 4 are called the Luteal Phase. This is when your skin is most susceptible to breakouts.
Targeting these concerns calls for entirely different treatment regimens and active ingredients. Basically, your course of action during the Follicular Phase should be to incorporate brightening agents, like vitamin C, Konjac root, or even the controversial ingredient hydroquinone. The Luteal Phase's treatment protocol calls for acne-fighting ingredients like Tea Tree Oil and exfoliating acids (i.e. glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acids).
For the breakouts themselves — and post-breakout fading — we'll also look at spot spot treatments and masks to fade, resurface, and improve texture. These spot-treatments drastically reduce the healing time of blemishes in a clinically verified way.
Note: The reason there's a little St. Jude placard there is because he's the patron saint of lost causes. When it comes to preventing breakouts during PMS, it's a lost cause (for me).
When you've broken out, here's what to reach for:
1. Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch ($13 for 36): These little hydrocolloid patches are the most effective anti-inflammatory treatment I've tried yet. They'll shrink the size of whatever is emerging and they help you keep hands OFF by covering the blemish while they work their magic (they stay on for 6 hours minimum). They're also cruelty-free and safe for use during pregnancy. I’ve been testing them out and they work like magic; I am seriously impressed.
2. Renée Rouleau Anti Cyst Treatment ($45.50): This product is a game-changer if you've ever suffered from hormonal or cystic acne. Hormonal acne breakouts (usually in the chin area in the form of under-the-skin cysts) are almost impossible to treat without heading to the dermatologist for a cortisone injection — until now. It's clinically proven to expedite the healing process by 50%. It can also be used preventatively in trouble-prone areas. This has been a holy grail product for me, hence my love for celebrity skincare expert, Renée Rouleau.
1. Renée Rouleau Triple Berry Smoothing Peel ($86.50) + Rapid Response Detox Mask ($60.50): Celebrity skincare specialist Renée Rouleau makes some of my favorite masks of all time. In particular, her raved-about Rapid Response Detox Mask is one I like to keep stocked.
For this post, the purpose of the Triple Berry Smoothing Peel — which brightens your skin like you wouldn't believe — is actually to exfoliate and better prepare your skin for the Rapid Response mask. Once you've cleared away dead skin cells — which you can alternatively do with a sensitive skin-friendly peel pad like First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads ($30), or the stronger Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Extreme Pads ($15 for 60) — you've cleared the way for the anti-inflammatory champion that comes next. If you want to buy and use both (they are considered to be pretty incredible together) they're also sold in a duo, Renée Rouleau Rapid/Peel Duo ($147).
The detox mask is considered a holy grail item in the beauty world. It's an award-winning, gel mask that is crazy-effective for preventing breakouts, calming breakouts, and cleaning out your pores. What makes it so groundbreaking is the fact that it's majorly anti-inflammatory, disrupting the "blemish cycle," and helps prevent PMS breakouts when applied preventatively. In other words, it's one of the only products around designed especially to treat hormonal acne — and it's safe for sensitive skin.
2. Lancer Skincare Caviar Lime Acid Peel ($90): I love this mask because it's a powerful exfoliant that leaves your skin smooth — my friend Belinda calls it the "Baby's Butt Mask." It's also great to use as an overnight spot treatment to shrink emerging breakouts. It also contains retinol, known for improving skin texture, reducing pore size, and lessening fine lines and wrinkles.
3. Amareta Earth Mother Detoxifying Charcoal Mask ($46): This entire line is incredible for the treatment and management of hormonal acne because it was designed to sync with your cycle. This detoxifying sheet mask uses activated charcoal to draw the toxins out of your pores in 15-20 minutes. It also contains avocado and jojoba oils to nourish and prevent breakouts, balancing oil production, and clearing skin with a twice weekly application. It definitely leaves skin feeling extra soft post-application and I thought it helped with pore size on my nose when used regularly.
4. Charcoal Sheet Masks: While we're on the topic of detoxifying charcoal, there are three organic K-Beauty masks by Earth Therapeutics to consider that their rep sent over for me to try.
- Earth Therapeutics Deep Purifying Charcoal O2 Bubble Mask ($12 for 3): This mask is soaked in a bamboo charcoal serum infused with clarifying Tea Tree oil, brightening and toning Lemon and Sweet Orange extracts, and it bubbles.
- Earth Therapeutics Purifying Charcoal Peel Off Mask ($12 for 5): This mask dries on your skin before you peel it off. It's like a Bioré strip for your entire face. If you use it, beware of your eyebrows. (I gave one of mine an accidental wax.)
- Earth Therapeutics Purifying ClariGel Translucent Pure Gel Eye Zone Mask ($10 for 3): This mask is specific to the eye zone area, relieving puffiness and containing brightening ingredients like Konjac root, as well as anti-agers like red algae.
1. Amareta Moon Light Brightening Gel Cleanser ($48): Amareta's cleanser caught my attention while I was researching a skin superfoods article on Brit + Co. It contains Lemon Peel Bio-Ferment, an extra-potent antioxidant source that is great for combatting hyper-pigmentation. It also contains another complexion-brightener in the form of vitamin C-rich guava leaf extract, and sodium hyaluronate for hydration.
2. Amareta Bright Side Balancing Toner ($42): The line's toner contains rosehip extract, which is high in vitamin C, as well as circulation-boosting geranium, and antioxidant guava leaf. You can tell from the brightening and hydrating ingredients that this duo was designed for the Follicular phase.
3. LJH Tea Tree 90 Essence ($23): This essence goes on after your toner and before your serum, ideally during the Luteal phase of your hormonal cycle (weeks 3 + 4). It was created by a Korean dermatologist to prevent breakouts and soothe redness. For some people, this products make a huge difference.
4. Amareta Pure Peace Clarifying Serum ($52): Here is Amareta's clean, plant-based anti-bacterial serum to help prevent and treat breakouts, especially during weeks 3 + 4. Its used as an alternative to harsh treatments like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which can incidentally cause premature aging. Plus, when I read the ingredients, I was obsessed.
The ingredient I'm most excited about is chlorophyll. It's not that common to find in skincare products — although I did recently spotted it in Lilfox Chlorophyll & Tourmaline Brightening Mask ($68). Honestly, the reason why I am crazy about chlorophyll is because Joanna Vargas swears by it. That's reason enough for me, but the ingredient also accelerates healing.
The banti-acterial serum also contains Tea Tree Oil — an essential oil with known skin-clearing effects — as well as evening primrose oil, which is both hydrating and anti-inflammatory. Basically, this is a soothing, healing, and breakout-preventing serum made using all plant-based ingredients. Like the rest of the clean line, it's even safe for pregnancy. (Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are not.)
1. Crafty Cake Holy Cramp Healing Crystal Infused Oil Roller ($12): For menstrual relief, I got myself one of these crystal-infused essential rollers. It contains organic fractionated coconut oil, and moonstone infused with lavender, rose, yang yang, peppermint, and cinnamon leaf essential oils. The blend is said to balance your hormones when rubbed onto your temples, chest, and neck, and can also be used to treat cramps when rolled directly onto your lower abdomen. You can buy them off Etsy.
2. Whoopi & Maya Soak + Rub: I had never tried a marijuana topical until receiving a sample of cannabis-infused coconut oil. It makes a major difference for cramps and joint pain when applied topically, and now I'm hooked.
I've never tried these products by Whoopi and Maya, but I've read reviews that they're potent. They're legal in California and Colorado but I think they have to be bought at a dispensary. The soak is infused right into epsom bath salts and the reviewer said they were ultra-effective but had a potential psychoactive effect. The rub, however, definitely won't get you high.
Be sure to keep it out of reach of kids and pets. If you have a dog or cat, cover yourself after applying it and don't let your pets lick the oil.
What are your PMS-essentials? Tell me.
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